by: Ian Barraclough [ ]
Presented in the smaller sized box, usually reserved for figure sets and diorama accessories - this is one of those kits that you either ‘need’ or don’t need... I know that sounds obvious, but it isn’t a set you’d buy to put it on a shelf to dip into, as you might do with many of MiniArt’s current releases. If you want or need a set of T34/85 late running gear – you’ll buy this.
For me, MiniArt are doing some of the best box art around at the moment – their T34 Engine box are made me go and buy it for no other reason that the box art looked great! This set is no exception – who would have thought that ‘running gear’ could be made to look sexy..?
So, on opening the 'sexy' box, the parts are presented on 21 sprue trees moulded in light grey plastic; as well as a bag containing the snap together track ‘waffles’. Each tree contains parts for road wheels; drive sprocket and idler; as well as some spare tracks, track cleats, brackets and wooden box parts. There’s also some exhaust outlet covers included – my thoughts are that this set is simply an extraction of one of their T34 variant kits; so there’s some left over parts kicking about on the sprues that will go unused and end up filling your spares box…
The track parts are presented connected end to end with small sprues that will end up being discarded. They have separate trees for track links with teeth; and those without – as per the real thing they should be connected alternately tooth / no-tooth. I like this idea, as it means that with a bit of manipulation the track links can be removed from their sprues and connected end to end with little or no clean up required. The track links go together as ‘push to click’ type connections meaning that they remain workable without the need to drill holes for pins or fit fiddly resin connectors. The track parts themselves are some of the best I’ve seen from across all spectrums. The tread pattern looks amazing, and each track part has a minute casting number; readable but tiny!
The wheels are again very well presented; the 12 spokes and holes being extremely well defined and even exhibiting ‘micro’ proportioned weld beads! The rubber ‘tyres’ have very finely moulded ribs around their exterior and a very thin mould line around the circumference centre – this can be removed with a sharp blade, however the real things do have these lines – even after a few years of use. It’s also worth noting that these ‘spider’ type road wheels were/are often seen being used on T54s and T55s, even up to the present day as opposed to the more common 5 spoke ‘starfish’ types.
Alongside the road wheels; the idler and sprocket are beautifully moulded, with excellent detail correct for a late T34. Note that the sprocket and idler on the T54 and T55 were very different so you won’t be able to ‘cross contaminate’ these parts if using this set for this purpose (I get a feeling we’ll see future releases of T54 running gear sets from Miniart).
Across the set there was hardly any flash and the parts are soft enough to come off the sprues without deforming, but brittle enough to allow for easy clean-up of any mould lines – perfect!
It’s difficult to rate this set, as it’s not something you’d build as a standalone item - it would be difficult to get the wheel alignment right without a hull to butt them against! I’d suggest that this set is the pinnacle of Late T-34/85 running gear sets; but then again it’s probably the only set offering wheels and tracks as one complete set.